I'm thrilled to welcome a long-term Twitter buddy to the blog today to chat about their writing journey and their upcoming debut release!
Here we go...
Dan Hanks is a writer and editor based in the rolling green hills of the Peak District, UK, with his human family – and fluffy sidekicks Indy and Maverick. His debut novel, Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire is out on 8 September 2020.
An ex-Spitfire pilot is dragged into a race against a shadowy government agency to unlock the secrets of the lost empire of Atlantis...
In post-war 1952, the good guys are supposed to have won. But not everything is as it seems when ex-Spitfire pilot Captain Samantha Moxley is dragged into a fight against the shadowy US government agency she used to work for. Now, with former Nazis and otherworldly monsters on her trail, Captain Moxley is forced into protecting her archaeologist sister in a race to retrieve two ancient keys that will unlock the secrets of a long-lost empire - to ensure a civilisation-destroying weapon doesn't fall into the wrong hands. But what will she have to sacrifice to save the world?
Who are you and what do you write?
I’m Dan Hanks and right now I’m mainly writing stories featuring weary heroes or portals to other worlds. This may or may not be because I am very tired and also love the idea of being able to escape, just temporarily, to somewhere different, away from *gestures to everything*.
Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire (out in September!) is my third book, but the first that will see the light of day. Set in post-war 1952, it’s about a former Spitfire pilot who gets dragged into protecting her archaeologist sister as they race to find the fabled Hall of Records before a shadowy government agency.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
The first ever story I wrote was at primary school and it basically ripped off Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s mine cart chase, but there was also a snowbeast that killed everyone. I’m pretty sure I got called out on stealing everyone else’s ideas and didn’t write properly again until my mid-twenties! After that I spent many years writing a huge fantasy novel, then fell into freelance editorial writing when I lived in Australia, then tried screenwriting, comic writing, copywriting, content writing… and eventually moved back to novels when I returned to the UK.
So my writing life has been varied. I’ve tried a bit of everything and that’s been enjoyable. Plus writing in different mediums helps hone your craft, I’ve found. Screenplays helped me improve my dialogue. Writing comics helped me get better at breaking scenes down and ‘directing’ them in my head so they were easier to follow. And writing published editorial pieces helped me realise that someone will always hate what you write and maybe you should just stay away from the comments section…
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Oh man, it’s been a long journey. About 18 years since I started that very first proper book, after which I went through the usual querying trenches for an eternity. But the best thing I did during that time, to keep myself busy and enthusiastic (because querying is DRAINING), was becoming a staff writer for Fantasy Faction. This was invaluable in helping me learn how to review other peoples’ work, plus it allowed me to build connections with authors and agents I interviewed. In fact, that’s how I first connected with an agent I’d long admired – Sara Megibow – who eventually became my agent!
However, publishing being publishing means that grabbing your dream agent doesn’t always mean smooth sailing after that. The book that I signed with did sell pretty quickly, but then for reasons that couldn’t be overcome the deal fell through. That is quite an experience – having announced the news, written the blog post you always wanted to write, and then it all goes wrong and you have to constantly explain on the quiet that actually that book isn’t coming out anymore and might not ever.
Anyway, what you do when that happens is just keep going. To get myself out of that rut, I started adapting an action-adventure screenplay I’d written. That turned into this book. And this book sold with a publisher I’ve long admired and wanted to work with, and I got the cover of my dreams, and I’m even getting some nice reviews. So it’s all good!
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
Losing that deal, just before Christmas 2018, was heartbreaking. It seems a very trivial thing in today’s world with so much actual horror going on, but that was a goal I’d waited so long for and worked so hard to reach, and having it taken away again was tough.
The most enjoyable though… everything to do with this current book. Seriously! Sara’s enthusiasm over it in the first place, then my editor Eleanor Teasdale loving it, working with the Angry Robot team, seeing my cover come to life by artist Dan Strange, seeing it appear on my favourite bookshop websites(!!) and now hearing that people are enjoying it. Everything has been brilliant.
Would you go back and change anything?
I feel that I was a bit lost and directionless in my twenties, so I wish I’d started writing properly a bit earlier. But, no, it all happened for a reason and I’m finally where I wanted to be, so it all worked out.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
As long as we’re all still around in 5 years and not living in vaults or anything (it’s been a long five months under ‘lockdown’ here), it would be great to still be writing books that get published and find readers. Thankfully things are already going well for projects after this book, so it’s looking promising.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Don’t give up. I think that’s the key really. Most of my friends in the writing community over the last ten years have found success in some form simply by persevering. We’ve all had rejections and low moments, queries that didn’t land, books that didn’t sell, books that sold but fell through, books that sold and were published but didn’t do very well for no real reason. But we somehow kept going. Sometimes the happy end goal happens pretty quickly for people, sometimes it takes longer. But if you don’t give up, if you keep writing, it’ll happen.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo?
Night or Day?
Inside or Outside?
It used to be inside, but after this lockdown business OUTSIDE PLEASE
Dogs or Cats?
Twitter or Facebook?
Ebook or Paperback?
Sun or Rain?
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook?
Comedy or Drama?
Chips or Chocolate?
Chips/crisps. But that’s a close one and now I’m going to have a square of chocolate to ensure its feelings aren’t hurt.
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!